November 1, 2012

Alone with Jesus

Those who have ADD struggle with distractions. Even when I sit for dinner or watch a show on television, my mind is thinking of other things to do. When I eat, I want to read a book. When I watch TV, I often do crossword puzzles, hand sewing, or even read at the same time. 

This penchant to be easily distracted becomes a bigger problem when I pray. I’ve found that praying aloud is helpful. So is walking while I pray, but I have to be careful where I walk. If it is in my home or on my treadmill, distractions are all around me. If I walk outside, praying aloud could be misinterpreted by others on the walking trail, never mind the distractions of traffic and scenery.

Yet there is nothing like focused prayer, prayer that puts me face to face with Jesus. Sometimes I imagine myself entering a room where God sits behind a desk like a CEO and I am reporting in. Sometimes I put myself on a park bench with Him beside me. If I’m on the treadmill, I close my eyes. All of these things help keep distractions from pulling at my attention.

John’s gospel relates a time when the religious people of Jesus’ day brought a woman to him. They accused her of being caught “in the act of adultery” and said that the law demanded she be stoned to death. Their question for Jesus was a trick. Would He show compassion on this woman and break the law, or would He agree that she should die? Either way, their intent was to ruin His credibility. At first, Jesus didn’t say anything. Instead, He stooped and wrote on the ground with His finger.

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. (John 8:7–9)

Finally, this woman was in that special place that only sinners know; she was alone with Jesus. Her accusers left. The man who was with her in her sin was not there. Those who wanted Jesus to look bad were gone. She was with the only One who could do anything about her situation. 

I’m imagining how she felt. Her sin was fresh in her mind. What would Jesus do about it? Her shame was no doubt devastating, yet He had already rescued her from those who heaped scorn on her. What would He do next? I can imagine her head bowed in humility. There was no boldness in her eyes. She may have felt a glimmer of hope, but at this point was extremely uncertain. Finally, Jesus stood up and said to her,

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10–11)

This is what it is like to be alone with Jesus. Jesus deals with my accusers, most often led by the devil who is the “accuser of the brethren” and who wants me distracted by guilt, either real or false. Alone with Jesus, all reminders of my sin are out of sight. They have been forgiven by this One who refuses to condemn me, who instead died for those sins, taking my punishment and condemnation on Himself. 

Being alone with Jesus means opportunity to hear Him give me direct orders too. He buffets His high standards with the “no condemnation” but sticks to what He wants from my life --- that I should sin no more.

Those who cannot or will not fight all distractions so they can be alone with Jesus are likely just as fearful as this woman must have been. However, in that short space of time alone with Him, she discovered the wonder of His grace in the only place it can be found.

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